Pass The Flask
Like most people with boring day jobs or magician fetishes, I love surprises. And although I can’t say that I’m necessarily surprised that a band named The Bled would be an angry, heartbroken metal/hardcore hybrid complete with razorblade vocals and crazy guitar antics, I am surprised at how well they’ve pulled it off on their debut for Fiddler Records.
Head and shoulders above the average entry in the genre, The Bled sound a little like what I’d imagine Poison The Well might have sounded like if they’d all lost their friends and loved ones at once in a horrible train wreck right after releasing The Opposite Of December. There are obvious Converge comparisons that can be made, and I’m pretty sure there’s a little bit of Refused in there too. But the first thing that struck me was Drowningman — clearly the result of the sudden dynamic shifts that seem awkward at first and incredibly natural after two to three listens, accompanied by some of the finest melodic passages (complete with almost-clean vox) I’ve heard to date in this type of music. The vocal delivery, although not yet Simon Brody caliber, is excellent; shades of screamo, but mostly just unrestrained brutality, allowing the guitars to take center stage in providing the melody.
The Bled is tortured, and they know how to use it, shape it and seem to morbidly enjoy it in the same way a mortician might enjoy seeing a tragic roller coaster accident at an amusement park. You can hear it in James Munoz’s powerful lyrics and cathartic vocals, in the dual guitar attack of Ross Ott and Jeremy Talley and in the thundering bass and drums. Particular standouts on the album include “Dale Earnhardt’s Seat Belt” (sure to piss off race fans everywhere with lyrics like “We’ll scrape the guardrail from our teeth and start again”) and “We Are The Industry.” These are definitely two of the most punishing and artfully executed tracks, complete with sing-along quality melodies and some great hooks that you’ll have an awfully hard time digging out of the side of your face.
But of all the rough-hewn gems on Pass The Flask, the most impressive song is, without a doubt, the haunting “I’ve Never Met Another Gemini.” If this isn’t some of the finest weeping done by a hardcore band that I’ve ever heard, I’ll be damned. This is the kind of thing that makes Dashboard Confessional feel contrived; it’s at once both crushing and fatally optimistic, the one last untainted ambition in an evening full of regrets and broken beer bottles. If you’ve ever had your heart smashed to bloody bits, you’ll find yourself choking on the final words, over and over and over as Munoz pleads to the missing, the lost: “And I will wait for you tonight.” Or on the outro to “The Sound of Sulfur,” where he repetitively chants, “I hope they love you like I did when you needed me, and I came for you that night”; it’s so goddamn good that, like The Bled themselves, the music almost makes you want to be even more miserable than you already are, just so you can revel in it the way these guys do.